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Blog: Babel 2001 and information overload

By John Chapman, Programme Director | Friday 14th October 2016.

John Chapman
These pictures were taken at Tate Modern in London, June 2016.

The accompanying wording with this 3 dimensional art said:

“Babel 2001, a tower of radios playing at once, addresses ideas of information overload and failed communication.

“Cildo Meireles refers to Babel as a ‘tower of incomprehension’. Comprising hundreds of radios, each tuned to a different station, the sculpture relates to the biblical story of the Tower of Babel, a tower tall enough to reach the heavens. God was offended by this stricture, and caused the builders to speak in different languages. No longer able to understand one another, they became divided and scattered across the earth, as so began all mankind’s conflicts.…

“The noise produced by Babel is constant, but the precise mix of broadcast voices and music is always changing, so that no two experiences of this work are ever the same.”

©Cildo Meireles, photo by John Chapman.With so much information available to us we need to be selective about which is appropriate and that which can be ignored. In designing our solution, it is possible to consider every which way analysis might need to be done, to have data entry with multiple levels of detail, embedded into ever deeper hierarchies. Data entry time will be extended, but we convince ourselves it will be worth it.

The output might just become our own ‘tower of incomprehension’. Each time a report is run the result is always changing. It looks like the same amount of analysis, but the input is being updated with new data, the output is changing.

So let us consider how many ‘radios’ (i.e. how many different channels of information) we really need and at what point does it reach incomprehension.

Copyright: the work is by Cildo Meireles shown at the Tate. Photo by John Chapman.

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